Worshipful Company of Farriers
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The Worshipful Company of Farriers
Promoting the welfare of the horse since 1356

WCF News: Note of a Meeting with DEFRA on 25/09/2012 at the Coventry Hill Hotel, Coventry

25th September 2012

Note of a Meeting with DEFRA on 25/09/2012 at the Coventry Hill Hotel, Coventry

Meeting called by DEFRA with the Equine Passport Issuing Offices ('PIOs') to confirm the position relating to the National Equine Database ('NED') following the recent tender process.

Attended by three representatives from DEFRA and approximately 30/35 representatives of PIOs.

Following the recent tendering process and the associated cost benefit analysis, DEFRA had decided that they could not financially support NED and that with effect from 1 October 2012, NED would cease to exist. Due to public spending cuts, (DEFRA have had to reduce their expenditure by 33%), the cost of maintaining NED was not sustainable.

It was the understanding of some PIO representatives present that under EU legislation it was compulsory for each Member State to maintain an equine database, but DEFRA have taken legal opinion and are happy that this is not the case. It had been previously stated that one of the main purposes of NED was to have the central database to identify the whereabouts of horses if there was a major disease outbreak, but at the meeting DEFRA stated that this would only have been part a relatively small part of the method of tackling such a disease and could not be reliable as NED only recorded owners of horses and not the keepers. There is no legislation anticipated which would change this.

Although it is the legal requirement for every equine in this country to have a passport, there are still a vast number of animals which do not. Although DEFRA is keen that horse owners comply with the law, they do not have the responsibility of enforcing such regulations, which falls to the local authority trading standards officers. The approach of these in each local authority is very varied - again due to public funding cuts, several authorities would rather spend the money for example on education than on checking that horses have passports! Some offices take this seriously, but most do not.

Going forward, PIOs should still maintain their existing database as they have done in the past. Access to this database will be required by various regulating bodies (the police, enforcement officers etc) but there must of necessity be various safeguards in place due to data protection. DEFRA has therefore come up with a data release protocol along the following lines:

E.g. Police request personal data "Who owns horse X?" -> DEFRA -> PIO who will search database -> DEFRA -> Police

It is envisaged that a reply will be given within 10 working days and the request from DEFRA to the PIO will be in a form which complies with the Data Protection Act.

The regulating bodies can go direct to the PIOs to request information, but PIOs should refer all such applications direct to DEFRA. (It has been agreed that PIOs based in Scotland will comply with the above - i.e. apply to DEFRA rather than to the Scottish Government).

It was noted that in the period December 2010 to November 2011, DEFRA only received 50 such requests.

In order to improve the overall quality of passports being issued, DEFRA is setting up a working party to have minimum quality standards for passports to cover such things as bindings, watermarks, holograms etc. The aim to be that the working party will report by 1 January 2013. (GNH)